The task of picking my top or favorite films is one I both love and hate. I could talk about films I treasure for hours, but having to pick out a mere five really is a challenge. As cheesy as it sounds, cinema has been a part of my life pretty much forever and the past three or so years have made me realize that it always will be. My list of favorites constantly changes depending on my mood, what’s going on in my life and new releases or discoveries, so consider these my top five films at this present moment.
The Most Beautiful Film I’ve Ever Seen:
Spike Jonze’s unconventional love-story is one I was never sure I’d enjoy but ended up adoring. In my opinion, Her is the pinnacle of visual story-telling; Hoyte van Hoytema’s camera work, teamed with stylistic color palettes and costuming, stuns me every time I watch. The film explores loneliness and connection, with van Hoytema’s careful close-ups and sweeping skyline shots evoking the same juxtaposing feelings. The warm tones and softer light give the film a dreamy feel and offer a sense of comfort to contrast the melancholic moods. Love and heartbreak have never seemed so beautiful.
Honourable mention: Moonlight (2016)
The Films That Made Me Fall in Love with Movie-Making:
Dan Gilroy’s incredible directing debut, Nightcrawler, haunted me for months after I left the cinema, and the crumpled, now-discolored, ticket is still stuck up on my bedroom wall. The thriller features my favorite Jake Gyllenhaal performance with the sunken-eyed Louis Bloom. Bloom is a dedicated, freelance journalist, constantly illuminated by the neon lights of the city as he searches for new crimes to capture on his camcorder. His obsession with getting the best and most shocking footage consumes him more as the film ticks on and provides an insight into the sensationalized nature of modern news. With beautiful cinematography and an incredibly well-written anti-hero, Nightcrawler was one of the first movies to make me speechless about filmmaking as an art form.
La La Land (2016)
Although this may seem an unimaginative choice for one of my top five films, I could never create this list and ignore my most re-watched film. After seeing Damien Chazelle’s 2014 masterpiece, Whiplash, I returned home, blasted the soundtrack and began researching his future projects. A quick search meant that I came across the synopsis for La La Land which, at the time, was simply something along the lines of “a jazz pianist and aspiring actress fall in love and attempt to pursue their dreams in LA.” Jazz? Aspiring actress? Love? Chasing dreams? I was sold. La La Land was released in the UK in January and as soon as I had a break from school and a little money, I booked myself a cinema ticket. As soon as the film began, I was in love; the use of CinemaScope, bold and bright colors, over-the-top sequences, romanticized settings and score had me obsessed. I was unable to talk about much else for the rest of the year and this only got worse when I somehow ended up stumbling across the Lighthouse Cafe and Hermosa Beach Pier when visiting California later in the spring.
Honourable mention: Rear Window (1954)
The Screenplay I Wish I’d Written:
Before Sunrise (1995)
Due to my age (nineteen) and the number of stereotypical ‘hopeless romantic’ characteristics I possess, it’s no surprise the first film of Richard Linklater’s ‘Before Trilogy’ is a favorite of mine. Before Sunrise is essentially one long, beautifully natural conversation between Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in which they somehow talk about everything and nothing. Finding a person you have immediate chemistry and potential with is rare, and the romantic drama highlights how this initial moment is one to be cherished and extended to its full potential. It’s a story of stolen glances, over-sharing and poetic discussions, which finds the perfect balance between being realistic and idealistic.
Honourable mention: Rushmore (1998)
My Favorite Film:
Dead Poets Society (1989)
If you’ve ever asked me my favorite film, I’d have most likely responded with this title. Dead Poets Society is one of the most ‘Yazz’ films I’ve ever seen, and its place in my top five probably says a lot about me as a person. I was fourteen when I first encountered the film whilst going through my now rather comical ’80s obsessed phase’; I’d seen a lot of John Hughes’ work and was ready for something different when I saw the title pop up in various “Top Movies of the Eighties” lists. This coming-of-age story is one for romantics and anyone needing an inspirational boost; with speeches on poetry, passion and love, teenage boys rebelling against their parents and phenomenal performances from Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke; it’s heart-warming, heart-breaking and everything in-between. I tend to watch it every few months or so as a grounding tool and a reminder to do what I love in life.
Honourable mention: Call Me by Your Name (2017)
19, Media Student. Just doing my best. (@isleofdogz, https://letterboxd.com/yazzjames/)